Research

Firenze città nobilissima
Topography and Representation

Jan Simane, Costanza Caraffa, Laura Cirri, Verena Gebhard, Stephanie Hanke, Lisa Hanstein, Alexander Auf der Heyde, Thomas Frangenberg

The rich history of the city of Florence has long been a focus of research for a vast international network of scholars coming from a variety of disciplines. The outstanding position attained by Florence in the early modern period as a center of art, culture, literature and science, largely in connection with the Medici family's supremacy, has ever since drawn special attention to this era. Moreover, the numerous records of this period must continue to be consulted and interpreted in the future because of newly arising questions, newfound connections and shifting perspectives. In addition to the ongoing need of scholars to consult familiar, as well as previously unconsidered sources, it is now becoming common practice for these sources to be made available for convenient online consultation. 'Firenze Città Nobilissima' – Topography and Representation pursues these two aims of conducting new research, and making vital sources available to scholars.

The planned research project focuses on topographical literature. This includes, in the first place, city guides "with truly art-historical interest" (Schlosser 1924). This literary genre was developed in Florence from the 16th century onwards and the guides were often published in numerous editions. Unlike the Roman 'mirabilia' or "books of wonders" these guides were not addressed to pilgrims but to lovers of art and cultivated travelers. Monument inventories that systematically represent ('tópos', 'graphía') the urban space by using similar methods of description as the guides but without the intention of being itineraries will also be taken into account. Both genres of sources have simplistically been referred to as "guides". These two genres provide key examples of different concepts of describing a city and through an analysis it can be determined how the authors' priorities were established and what kinds of individual perceptions exist in the texts. What was considered important and how was it discerned? Who were the authors and what 'image' - in both a literal and figurative sense - did they try to convey? Within the scope of the project different functions and modes of description as well as the intentions of authors will be comprehensively acknowledged and elaborately described. On this basis sources will be interpreted in order to extrapolate constants in the history of ideas as well as historical changes of paradigms within the perception or construction of Florence's cityscape, architectural monuments and works of art.

The corpus of sources chiefly located within the library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence is at present being prepared for consultation on the Internet. The project is as a continuation of the former 'Giglio' project in which the digitization and accessibility of the sources had been central. The scientific analysis of the writings is planned. 'Firenze Città Nobilissima' is a prelude for a forthcoming online portal with a modular structure that will provide sources on topography and the history of the city of Florence. 

This project is carried out in collaboration with the institute's Photo library.

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